Degree adverbs in Mauritian

Abstract : From a semantic point of view, degree adverbs can be analysed as modifying a value on a scale, which can be an intensity scale for properties, or a quantity scale for objects or events (Kennedy & McNally 2005); some are specialized for a certain type of scale (an intensity scale for extremely) or underspecified (a lot is compatible with all scales). From a syntactic point of view, degree adverbs usually exhibit syntactic constraints and can only combine with certain categories. In English, very only combines with adjectives and adverbs, while very much only with verbs. A lot combines with verbs and a lot of with nouns. Abeillé & Godard (2003) show that French degree adverbs may be both syntactically and semantically polymorphic. They analyze trop (too/ too much/ too many) as a left modifier of adjectives, adverbs, non finite verbs and de marked nouns, and as a complement of verbs. It is compatible with all types of scale.     We show that in Mauritian, a French based creole, degree adverbs may exhibit a purely semantic selection. High degree adverbs mari (‘very’) and boukou (‘a lot’) may combine with all syntactic categories, but the former only modifies predicates associated with an intensity scale, while the latter selects predicates with a quantity scale. Comparative degree adverbs also come in pairs (pli, plis, ‘more’; mwin, mwins ‘less’) and select the type of scalar predicates they combine with. The extreme syntactic polymorphism of Mauritian degree adverbs is also shown in the verbal domain, since they trigger the verbal form alternation (Henri & Abeillé 2008, Henri 2010): as adjuncts they combine with the long verbal form (LF) and as complements with the short verbal form (SF). We provide an HPSG analysis of these degree adverbs, since HPSG is well suited to account for their polymorphism in terms of underspecification.
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Shrita Hassamal, Anne Abeillé. Degree adverbs in Mauritian. The 21st International Conference on Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar, Aug 2014, Buffalo, United States. ⟨halshs-01128899⟩



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